THE CULTURE OF UCONN WOMEN’S BASKETBALL
In light of recent events there can’t be enough emphasis put on the importance of culture in the sports world, with negative culture, unfortunately, drawing most of the attention. Not only should winning not be the only thing in sports, with the valuable lessons that can be learned even from losing, winning alone shouldn’t be enough. The culture behind a winning program is at least as important as any win or any championship.
Few teams in American Sports have as winning a tradition as the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team. No team anywhere has a more winning culture. With a graduation rate in the high nineties and a littany of doctors, lawyers, scientists and other professionals who join the successful professional basketball players who dot the roles of the UCONN women’s basketball alumni, life after college has become very rewarding for the players who learn the lessons of teamwork, comradery and citizenship within the program, in campus society and in the community at large. It’s a winning culture second to none in the sports world. There’s a primary mover behind the culture that is UCONN women’s basketball, someone who doesn’t get enough credit. Associate head coach Chris Dailey.
She is the combination of coaching and culture that makes so much of the program a role model for girls nationwide, the coach who teaches nearly unstoppable post moves to some of the greatest inside players ever to come out of the college ranks, the mother hen, who looks over her chicks and demands that they each live up to their role in the family.
It’s not an unfamiliar sight on road trips with the Huskies to see them take up the hallway outside their hotel rooms to set up open study halls in which veteran players team up with younger players to teach them the nuances of balancing a life of intense scrutiny on the basketball court with a life of success in the classroom. The night before the Huskies beat Tennessee for the 2000 national championship in Philadelphia Geno and Kathy Auriemma took out a floor of a restaurant in an old warehouse on the riverfront and a list of college basketball “Who’s Who” came through the door. When Chris Dailey arrived I asked her who was looking after the team on the eve of what, for many of them, would be the biggest game of their lives.
“I told Stacy and Paige”, a reference to seniors Hansmeyer and Sauer, “They knew what had to be done to make sure the players are ready. They said, ‘No problem, C.D. we’ll take care of it.'” There was no questioning the readiness of the Huskies the next night as they left Tennessee coach Pat Summitt with a stunned look.
When college coaches make that final recruiting visit to a parents living room they drip with sincerity as they promise if the parents trust the coach with their child they’ll be looked after as they were the coach’s own. Too often that promise is forgotten before the player arrives on campus. At UCONN, Chris Dailey keeps every promise Geno Auriemma ever makes. Culture is important, we all know that now. At UCONN, Chris Dailey is the culture.
My point in all this is, there’s a serious void in the Huskies of Honor display at Gampel Pavilion. It’s well past time to put Chris Dailey’s name up there. And she should have her own ceremony.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.